Between 1831 and 1841 a series of conferences on biblical prophecy were held in Powerscourt House. It is known that J. N. Darby was one of the speakers at the first three conferences and it was there that he first set out his dispensationalist approach to the interpretation of prophecy. The proceedings of the conferences were thought to have been lost in the mists of time, but recently a three-volume handwritten account of the 1831 conference has been discovered and acquired by Tom Chantry, the owner of a Brethren Archive. See http://www.brethrenarchive.org/mini-blo ... quisition/
These volumes have been painstakingly transcribed by a team of volunteers and the transcripts posted along with facsimiles of the handwritten notes.
Darby’s interpretation of prophecy is almost universally rejected by mainstream biblical scholars but it is important historically because it was the basis of the first major disagreement between Darby and B. W. Newton, which eventually led to the first of many schisms of the Brethren movement. It is also important for its continuing influence on evangelical Christians in the USA and elsewhere.
Here are the parts of the notes attributed to Darby. No one knows who wrote them down. Abbreviations and spelling errors have been left as they were written. The manuscript contains hardly any paragraph breaks, but I have inserted a few to make the text easier to read.
Powerscourt Discussion 1831 Vol. 1 pages 1 to 3
Vol. 1 pages 13-15Powerscourt Oct 4th 1831.
. . .
The intention of the end being first the in ordering of God’s decrees then the intention of the means, what has the Lord declared to be the end of creation and redemption. How does each dispensation further the means and answer the end. In this view, are Christ's people now in their right position? (Including is it present duty to resist or endure corrupt institutions?)
. . .
Rev’d J Derby[sic]:
The personal manifestation of Christ the end, “in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Christ the end of all the dispensations of God. Prov VIII.22 “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting from the beginning” &c. Christ described in this chapter as wisdom. Christ is the wisdom of God now, and will be the power of God in the millennium. God must have a mediator in creation as well as in redemption.
The devil is now sitting in heavenly places Eph VI:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The devil’s power is now controlled. He will eventually be cast out, he is called the prince of the power of the air. The millennium state will be an educational state for that time when “God shall be all in all.”
Vol. 1 pages 37-38.5Rev’d John Derby[sic]:
Resistance of moral evil, and of evil to oneself from ungodly men is different – resistance of evil is the essence of the church of God. So we find it in the seven churches. The church ought to mark the difference between clean and unclean.
The church as a body has apostatized completely. “As he is so are we in this world”, not as he was, but as he is in glory. The endurance of evil is the essential sin of the church. When the apostles were sent forth by our Saviour, they were commanded to separate themselves from the ungodly, and not even to bid them God-speed. Christ’s people are totally and wholly in the wrong. There is no place in which the glory of Christ is so dishonoured as in Christianity. Hell does not exhibit a place in where Christ is so dishonoured as Christianity, for there sin is controlled.
A man should never go beyond his faith nor behind his conscience. If the first he will infallibly flounder, if the last he will be totally unhappy. We are not to endure corruptions in institutions, but to exercise great patience towards the individuals. The unqualified conduct of the apostles is witness of this.
Vol. 2 pages 1 to 7Rev’d John Darby.
The 1260 days most unequivocally mean years. All arguments against it are totally astray. My Friend who took the other side founded his argument on an absurdity, and all the conclusions he drew are absurd too. He rejects the idea of synchronization altogether and Joseph Mede. II Chron 22:19. 1 Sam 1.3 & 7 from days to days and from year to year shows the familiar use of the term day for year.
All the prophecies which relate to the Jews as amrai [Note on amrai: surely this is “ammi”?] upon earth are literal, and relate to earthly accomplishment, but to the Gentile and Jew when connected with the Gentile as in Daniel are expressed in symbolical character — an important canon in interpreting prophecy. I admire an expression which I remember hearing from my friend Cleaver once that God as it were likes to shorten the time before Him, and therefore expresses in days what is to be fulfilled in years.
The prophecies connected with history are literal and therefore it is absurd to look for symbolical characters. What is the technical meaning of the word shabuah – 70 not 7 at all, used by the symbolical prophecy Daniel. I’m inclined to think the little [Note on missing word at end of p38 –presumed from context to be “horn”] means Mahometanism. When you get out of literal into symbolical prophecy it is a perversion of principle to understand the terms literally.
Justinian’s Edicts were in force through France &c from the year 553 though the document on which they were founded was not discovered till 1137 by Gratian. The beast with 7 horns and 10 heads is the Roman Empire. [Note: the note-taker must have mistaken the 7 heads and 10 horns, and transposed it in his documentation.]
The spirit of insubordination is one of the greatest works of the Devil. The principle that power comes from the people is one of the broadest and most horrible and most abominable statements of atheism. These are signs of the last days in which we live. Popery is still strong.
Vol. 2 pages 22 to 25Powerscourt Oct 6. 1831
The last great & terrible conflict at the coming of Christ – Which the power that heads it?
Against whom? Proofs whether the saints are to suffer in it.
Which are the signs by which this power is to be known ?
Revd. J Derby:
The last great conflict is fully spoken of in [S_t ?]
The church of God is not now a development of God’s power on earth - it is “as if a man slept”. The providential arrangements of God move around the Jews, around the land & the people of Israel. There was a time when the Jews ceased to be God’s peculiar people - when he wrote on them Lo-ammi. The last great conflict wholly concerns the Jews - the treading of the winepress. The saints have no part in that conflict except that of executing judgments together with Christ.
Joel 2:14 “Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord yr God & cry onto the Lord – Alas for the day, for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the almighty shall it come.”
Joel2. Here we are getting the Gog & Magog of Ezekiel brought up against the Jews in the land. 18th verse “Then will the Lord be jealous for his people &c. 20th Verse. “But I will remove far off from you the northern army &c.” When he the enemy hath done great things, then God will appear for His people Isai 13.
Gog & Magog the northern army = Antichrist in Isai 14.
There are two characters in Scripture, Assyria and Babylon - the one active against the Lord’s people, the other containing them. In Ezekiel 38-9 the land is mentioned as being devastated by Gog & Magog, or the northern army, and not Jerusalem as in Joel. Ezekiel 39 describes Gog’s destruction. Isaiah 10 exhibits Antichrist under the character of Assyria.
Daniel XI. 36. Ezekiel 38.5, Gen 10.2 Cush & Phut were part of Ham’s posterity who settled near the Euphrates – Gog & Magog, joined with the Medes and Persians and all to the east of Judah and the northern army – Antichrist is the Western body and at the time of the end will be in Egypt.
The Jews being infidels will get them to help them. The Remnant will look to God alone, but the great body will be destroyed as Sennacherib. The grand tribulation of the latter days will fall upon the Jews – the church will be sifted.
The term elect in Matt. always refers to the Jews. The gospel of St. Matthew is a Jewish gospel – of Luke a Gentile gospel, of John a Glory-of-God gospel.
Satan now dwells in heavenly places – the seat of his authority over the earth (Ephes. 6.12). We wrestle not against flesh & blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world – against spiritual wickedness in high places” – he is therefore called the prince of the power of the air, the Lord Christ will clear the heavenly places of Satan. The “air”, the seat of authority, will then pass into new hands. The saints will meet him there.
What is now doing? The development of the western Antichrist and the forming of Gog and Magog’s army. The redintegration of the ancient Roman Empire is now establishing, England was formerly shut out from it, but is now joining it. It has been attempted to unite Belgium & Holland but God draws the line & keeps them separate.
The church will be sifted thoroughly as it was at Sodom; all her ties with the world will be broken. Lot could not take any thing with him out of Sodom but was obliged to fly and leave all behind.
Despotism, infidelity and Popery are the three unclean spirits. Infidelity will take the lead, and popery will give her the hand. Infidelity, devilism is now shewing herself in self-will & insubordination - denying the glory of Christ. The false prophet is Popery. Rev. xvii.
Vol. 2 pages 30 to 34Revd John Darby:
I went to see the reputed workers of miracles. I think some of them are impostors, some of them imposed upon. I consider some of them to be children of God, but under a delusion of Satan. Some of their doctrines are very erroneous; for instance they consider our Lord to be the first Adam as well as the second Adam.
Many of them did not appear to be aware of what they were doing – they were always under tremendous excitement. One proved to be an impostor and broke down. One woman went thro in Spirit the sufferings of our Saviour - she began in a low faint tone of voice, which was in a little time raised to the highest pitch, and altogether the scene was the most exciting scene I ever witnessed.
Then a man spoke an unknown tongue, apparently a mixture of Greek & Latin, after wh he prayed for an interpretation. They then sung a hymn, during which a woman spoke a string of Scripture texts, as an interpretation.
They hold universal pardon - and other things wh shewed me they were not taught of God. There was unusual excitement always when other persons joined them. I have heard from Pyt, Méjanel & Malan of people who are at Geneva, who amongst other things said that they saw visions but these invariably ceased whenever they joined their company. They mentioned they could not account for it, but supposed it had been a delusion of Satan.
Vol. 2 pages 40 to 50Revd John Darby:
The western Antichrist is the Roman Empire, the Eastern Antichrist a northern nation – the time of the tribulation of the Jewish church lasts from the time of Christ’s rejection until the period of Christ’s reception.
Matt. 26.24 Hereafter (or from henceforth, aparti ) shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Deuty 32.20. I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be, for they are a very froward generation.
Luke XXI is uniform in its meaning the Roman earth – where the light of God in Christ and the light of Satan is exhibited.
The little horn Daniel VII.8 is the apostacy of the Papacy in the Western Empire. Babylon means the secular influence of Papacy not Popery itself Babylon fell at the French Revolution - popery exists still.
There was no form of government before the flood – it was committed first to Noah after the deluge.
Luke XXI.24 refers not merely to the Land but to the Roman Earth. The saints are with the locusts the northern army but are not the locusts
The literal new heavens & earth are at the end and not at the beginning of the millennium. The day of the Lord lasts fm the time of Christ’s coming to the end of the Millennium. The believing Jews are converted at the coming of the Lord, and live during the Millennium. All that shall be saved of those that be alive shall stand on the Sea of Glass, and those only shall sing the song of Moses & the Lamb. Mat.XXIV.14. The subject ends.
The two witnesses in Rev: belong to the Christian church. Mat XXIV all relates to the Jews. “The servant smiting his fellow servants” points out the assumption of power in the church by the Popish church which has assumed the place of the Master.
Mat XXV.32. “all nations” means the Gentile nations.
Rev. XX & XVI The false prophet is the same in essence as Popery though not corporally. The two horned beast is the system of Popery – the image of the beast is the pope. The essence of the character developed in the four kingdoms is the assumption of authority over the world. Christ is the lawful king.
II Thess. ii.3 “the man of sin” &c. Popery keeps the glory of the Lord away & leaves the mind open to infidelity - the infidel form will be the last. Popery is the shelter, the film under which infidelity gets to a head and lets loose the spirit of lawlessness.
In some of these notes JND uses remarkably strong words to condemn Christendom, Popery, democracy, the human race and those who disagree with him.Powerscourt. Oct. 7. 1831
What is to be the state of the world and the state of the church at the coming of Christ? What cause is there to think from Scripture that these are or are not the last days. This is to include whether Ezekiel’s temple is to be before or during the Millenium.
Revd. John Darby:
The state of the world is a complete apostacy - not yet fully developed but it is brought nationally under the responsibility of rejecting the gospel. All are not absolutely engaged, but the apostacy is so extended as to bring them under the judgments. Christ was to be declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead. The witness of his resurrection glory was the Holy Ghost where his testimony prevailed – but it was rejected by the world at large nationally.
With respect to the state of the church at the coming of Christ, the saints will be brought to a feeling and fellowship one with another, and will earnestly desire its increase, but the energy of faith will be absent and the church will not place itself prominently as a witness for Christ. It will require the presence of Christ to satisfy it. This state of the church is rapidly developing now.
Do not these answer to the signs of the last days? Men shall not expect them - the testimony of the church that they are the last days shall be rejected; they will act remarkably as if there was to be a continuance of the world when all things are out of course – they will be found marrying, giving in marriage &c when the dissolution of all things is about to happen - With respect to Noah this was the case. It was revealed to Noah that the world should be destroyed, Noah believed it & acted upon it, the ungodly world mocked & disbelieved and the flood came and destroyed them all.
In the case of Abraham too he was informed of the destruction of the cities of the plain, & by believing it was saved, while the cities of the plain were buried in destruction. So with regard to the church – our Lord says “henceforth I call you not servants but friends, for the servant knoweth not what his master doeth.” He tells them what should be the signs of the last days “ye shall not see me until the time that ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
We have cause to judge now whether these be not the Last days. The testimony of the church respecting Ch[Christ’s] second coming is gone forth – We find the world rejecting it. In England I have seen caricatures ridiculing the subject - “Mens hearts failing them for fear &c.”
The way to understand prophecy is to get at the abstract idea of the symbols which have generally one simple idea throughout Scripture – for instance “the Sun” signifies supreme authority - the Earth, an organized system the Sea & waves, people in a state of tumult & restlessness “and there shall be signs in the sun & in the moon & in the stars” – not that they shall be destroyed but that there shall be signs – “upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea & the waves roaring &c” Matt. XXIV. 14 “and this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness &c” not the preaching of the Kingdom, but the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom - Rev XIV.6 “and I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach &c”
The use of this uniformly – The gospel is now preached - The Last days in a sense continue from the 1st coming of Ct to His 2nd coming. We take the first verse Rev.14.6 to shew what we are doing & omit the next – “saying with a loud voice, Fear God & give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come &c.”
In the cross of Ct we get a full development of Gods love & mans alienation. Infidelity will peculiarly mark the character of the last days. Antichrist, the rejection of the Father and the Son. there is no hope when the testimony of the Spirit is rejected. If you study the history of Nebuchadnezzar you find there the character of the apostacy, the worship of the image and the assumption of power by man.
Rev. 4th & 5th chapter we find power transferred to the Lamb – horns denote power, eyes intelligence. The point on which the supremacy of God rests is the appointing Christ supreme. The circumstances of the four are denoted by the fig tree – the fig tree denotes the Jewish church “putting forth leaves” - Isai: 18:4. “for so the Lord said unto me, I will take my rest and will consider in my dwelling place like clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest for afore the harvest when the bud is perfect and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches.”
With respect to Ezekiel’s temple God has not given me to see clearly, but it is deliberately connected in S.S. with the restoration of the Jews.
Hosea 2:9. Lo-ammi, not my people - Hosea 2:4. [sic. Hosea I.4] Jezreel seed of God – 6th verse. “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel.”
There is only one passage where the Church is called God’s people, 2 Cor. 6:16, refers to the Jews. The Church is called God’s sons and daughters. The Cherubim are always witnesses of God’s providential sway and dominion – Ezekiel. [Chapters 10 and 41]
God had not a people when Nebuchadnezzar carried the Jews into Babylon, the Cherubim departed. Isai 66.1.”The heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; where is the house that ye will build unto me, and where is the place of my rest?”
The principle of infidelity which will actuate the Jews in the later day will lead them to build a temple – they will think they have not forfeited their blessings. That they can do without Immanuel and when they find themselves disappointed in their expectations they will join Antichrist.
When Moses addresses God for the Jews he says, “thy people” but God replies “thy people”
Exekiel 47:1 Water issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward. If the temple is taken literally the water here mentioned must be taken literally. I am not able to speak decidedly as to this point.